Landlubber turns Clipper crewman

2007-11-21 00:00

JOE Xaba, development crew member on board the Durban and Beyond 2010 clipper, will be back at work next Monday - in Howick.

Having waved the boats out of port for the fourth leg of the Clipper 07-08 Round The World Yacht Race to Fremantle, Western Australia, he will return to the Midlands Wellness and Fitness Centre where he is serving his internship.

Xaba said that although the trip is over, he will remember his three-week sail across the Atlantic forever.

“My advice to anyone who gets the same chance is go for it,” he said.

The race is the brainchild of Sir Robin Knox-Johnson, the first man to sail around the world non-stop, single handedly. He created the race when he realised that more people had climbed Mount Everest than raced a yacht around the globe.

Xaba was a legger - a sailor who joins the crew for one or more of the 14 legs of the race. He was sponsored for the homeward journey by the city of Durban. He was also one of the 50% of participants with no sailing experience. For him, the journey was nothing like he had expected.

The most heartbreaking part was “being able to see land for the first time in two weeks and not be able to get to it”.

The local clipper was hit by a strong southwesterly wind on Friday morning and tore its main sail.

The boat limped into port late on Saturday night “counting the trees” along the coast en route, said skipper Ricky Chalmers.

The most challenging aspect of the journey was navigating relations with 15 fellow crew members (on a six-metre deck) who started out as strangers.

“Everyone was in the same boat,” he said. When the sea quickly changed from peaceful to rough and back again, living and working with the crew was a constant learning experience.

Xaba admitted that for an active youngster being confined on board for three weeks wasn't easy. While quiet periods were spent enjoying the ocean and the magnificent sunsets there was a great deal of hard work as well.

Xaba said that he would have loved to have continued for what is seen as the most adventurous part of the race - the trip along the Wild Coast, with land close by on the right, the Agulhas current on the left and massive surf as a constant companion, but said that he doesn't intend to give up sailing and will return to the coast as often as


The fourth leg of the Clipper 07-08 Round The World Yacht Race begins on Sunday at 1 pm.

Boats will leave the jetty in Durban at 10 am and sail past Wilson's Wharf before heading for open waters

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